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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

About Joy Piedmont

Joy Piedmont is a librarian and technology integrator at LREI - Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School. Prior to becoming a librarian, Joy reviewed and reported for Entertainment Weekly’s PopWatch. She reviews for SLJ and is the President of the Hudson Valley Library Association. When she’s not reading or writing about YA literature, she’s compulsively consuming culture of all kinds, learning to fly (on a trapeze), and taking naps with her cat, Oliver. Find her on Twitter @InquiringJoy, email her at joy dot piedmont at gmail dot com, or follow her on Tumblr. Her opinions do not reflect the attitudes or opinions of SLJ, LREI, HVLA or any other initialisms with which she is affiliated.

We Are the Ants

We Are the Ants, Shaun David Hutchinson
Simon Pulse, January 2016
Reviewed from final copy

Have aliens been abducting Henry Denton since he was thirteen? Or has he been suffering from mental illness? Some days I believe the former; other days, the latter. But does it really matter?

Probably not.

We Are the Ants is about much more than the end of the world (although those doomsday scenarios were highly entertaining). Shaun David Hutchinson uses science fiction elements to get at themes that are highly realistic: grief, guilt, love, nihilism… actually, this book is packed with ideas and Hutchinson weaves them through a story in which the protagonist is largely passive.
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Pyrite: Fun with numbers!

pyrite-postI have to say, running the Pyrite this early in the new year is weird. That being said, many of you took a few moments during the last days of 2015 to vote for the books you think deserve a (fake) honor.

As we’ve seen in the past, there’s not a lot of surprise in this honor slate if you were paying attention to the vote for gold. (And by paying attention I mean studying that graph in the post, because I’m sure you all get as fired up about spreadsheets and charts as much as I do.) The real excitement with this honor vote was in the neck and neck races between the front runners.

Let’s get to the list, the ones that almost made it, and some more fun with numbers.
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Honor Girl

honor girl coverHonor Girl, Maggie Thrash
Candlewick Press, September 2015
Reviewed from final copy

I was distracted while reading Honor Girl. The first two chapters orient the reader in the early days of the new millennium; there’s a list of celebrity crushes including Leonardo DiCaprio, Usher, and Justin Timberlake, our narrator is reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (and later, Goblet of Fire), and her favorite band is The Backstreet Boys. I spent most of the book trying to figure out if I’m older or younger than Maggie Thrash (as it turns out, I’m older by just six months). Near the end of the book a date is shown which confirmed my suspicion, but I had to read it a second time just so that I could experience the book without my self-centered curiosity getting in the way.

I’m mentioning this at the top of the review because those little references tethered me to the material in good and bad ways. I’ve never attended an all-girls school or camp, nor have I ever gone to a sleepaway camp. But I remember where and who I was in the summer of 2000. Being able to contextualize Maggie Thrash’s memoir through my understanding of myself at that time allowed me to fully appreciate how she captures a few months in her life when everything and nothing changed. It’s beautiful and nostalgic.

In our first round of Pyrite voting a couple of you gave Honor Girl your first place slot. With three stars and solid content to back it up, it’s not a longshot for the RealPrintz but there are a few things that will probably keep this one from the winner’s circle.
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The Weight of Feathers

coverThe Weight of Feathers, Anna-Marie McLemore
Thomas Dunne Books, September 2015
Reviewed from ebook

In previous years, I’ve been much more familiar with the Morris Award nominees, but Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Weight of Feathers is the only book of this year’s nominees that I’ve read. Truthfully, if I don’t get around to the others I don’t think I’ll mind so much because McLemore’s debut is a gem. (Although, I’ll always be sad that Adam Silvera wasn’t recognized for More Happy Than Not. ::shakesfistatsky::)

Despite the Morris nod, I think The Weight of Feathers is flying (no pun intended) under the radar this season because it’s a quieter story that on the surface seems like it’s been done to death. Young star-crossed lovers forced to live with the sins of their parents’ generation isn’t a new concept. McLemore’s approach, using magic realism in a contemporary setting, heightens the stakes for her characters. Are the families really cursing each other? What will happen if a Paloma touches a Corbeau?

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Symphony for the City of the Dead

Symphony for the City of the Dead, M.T. Anderson
Candlewick Press, September 2015
Reviewed from ARC

One of my favorite books last year was Candace Fleming’s The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial RussiaDespite having a ton of critical praise for its tight, thrilling narrative and thoughtful approach to complex history, it didn’t manage to snag a Printz (although it did win lots of other great awards). Symphony for the City of the Dead is, in many ways, a wonderful sequel to Fleming’s book. M.T. Anderson begins Symphony with Dmitri Shostakovich’s childhood, just before the end of the Romanov reign and the rise of Lenin. For the first half of the book he alternates between chronicles of Shostakovich’s life and the political and social upheaval in Russia beginning with the Bolsheviks and the revolution straight into World War II. The siege of Leningrad and the composition of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 are the main focus of the rest of the book. Anderson—a two-time Printz honoree—does very good work here but a few things in Symphony may keep the author from earning his third Printz.
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A Song for Ella Grey

book coverA Song for Ella Grey, David Almond
Delacorte Press, October 2015
Reviewed from ARC

Here’s a novel that is exactly what its title indicates it will be: a song for Ella Grey. David Almond’s lyrical novel—his third (!) to come out this year—is about the desperate first love of one’s youth that can inspire for a lifetime. The surprise of this song is that the singer isn’t Orpheus; it’s Claire, Ella’s best friend. It’s about love, obsession, magic, and loss. In a year when Almond already has a six-star novel, it’s not likely that Ella Grey could ever have been more than a dark horse contender unless the critical praise matched or exceeded its predecessor. More than that though, Ella Grey is strange and rare, a book that will leave readers in a daze trying to understand what they’ve just experienced.
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All American Boys

All American Boys coverAll American Boys, Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, September 2015
Reviewed from final copy

My high school students will find that this novel hits very close to home. As residents of New York City, many of them joined and organized protests when grand juries decided not to indict the police officers involved in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. They staged a die-in. They educated their peers about what it feels like to be repeatedly stopped and frisked. For other young readers who have lived the reality of this novel, this may be a difficult read but it may also provide them the opportunity to discuss these problems through the lens of fictional characters in a fictional situation. All American Boys is a safe space for conversation about police brutality and racism in America. Its three stars are no surprise and well-deserved for this raw and emotionally honest book.

All that being said, as Karyn put so well in her review of All the Rage, I’m trying to resolve “the tension between what matters about this book and what matters for award season.”

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Roundup: Countries in conflict

book coverbook cover

Black Dove, White Raven, Elizabeth Wein
Disney-Hyperion, March 2015
Reviewed from final copy

Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go, Laura Rose Wagner
Amulet Books, January 2015
Reviewed from final e-book

It’s a midweek roundup of books with commas in their titles. Okay, these two books are also about countries in the midst of crisis. Black Dove, White Raven is set in the years leading up to Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935. Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go presents more recent history—the immediate aftermath of the earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010.
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More Happy Than Not

coverMore Happy Than Not, Adam Silvera
Soho Teen, June 2015
Reviewed from e-ARC

This is the kind of book that can’t be discussed deeply without spoiling it. Big spoilers ahead; watch out. 

If you could forget the most painful memories of your life, would you? Maybe you’ve seen this scenario play out in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mindbut Adam Silvera’s debut novel asks much harder questions than Charlie Kaufman’s 2004 film. Personality is largely shaped by the collection of memories we carry around. If you forget certain parts of your life, will you change and will you be happier? Equally heartbreaking and fascinating, More Happy Than Not explores how forgetting can change people, and how the loss of key memories would affect a teen who was still in the process of identity formation. Given the critical praise it’s received, this is a book that would have landed on our list anyway, but the buzz before it was even published was strongly positive and mostly centered on Adam Silvera as a unique new voice in YA lit. We all know that hype can really deflate one’s experience of a book, but that was not the case here.
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Printzbery Part 3: Now with cat ears

goodbye stranger coverGoodbye Stranger, Rebecca Stead
Wendy Lamb Books, August 2015
Reviewed from ARC

Continuing our Printzbery series, today we’re looking at Goodbye Stranger, Rebecca Stead’s latest which has received six stars. The question of intended and/or appropriate audience is one we could debate for a long time. For our purposes, let’s focus on what makes this great fiction for any age.

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